Michael Hunter II continues to flourish in the heavyweight ranks.
The second-generation contender picked up his sixth straight win, thoroughly outpointing Russia’s Sergey Kuzmin over 12 rounds in their DAZN-streamed heavyweight clash Friday evening at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York City.
Scores were 117-110 across the board in favor of Hunter, who continues to roll following his lone loss to World cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk more than two years ago.
As clean was the win, it wasn’t a performance that left the victor fully content.
“He was a very tough opponent,” Hunter told DAZN’s Chris Mannix after his latest win. “I did some things I wanted, some things I didn’t get to do. But other than that, I’m pleased with my performance.”
The opening round saw Hunter circling to Kuzmin’s left, utilizing lateral movement to keep the husky Russian off-rhythm. Both boxers found success with right hand shots in the opening round, Hunter getting the better of the action for the most part.
Kuzmin slowly closed the gap in round two, subtly marching forward and forcing Hunter to fight on the inside more than the Las Vegas-based heavyweight desired. It came at a price, as Kuzmin—who at 258¼ pounds was at his heaviest weight since 2016—was already showing signs of fatigue.
Hunter failed to seize the moment, as he was far less mobile than was the case in the early going. It led to more exchanges on the inside, Hunter continuing to enjoy success with his right hand—at times mockingly telegraphing the shot —while Kuzmin connected with a clean left hook to get his foe’s attention.
The gym rat in Hunter served well in the middle rounds, cleanly outboxing Kuzmin in round four and immediately taking the fight to him thereafter. A left hook put Kuzmin flat on his back in the opening seconds of round five, one where Hunter began to pull away on the scorecards.
Momentum remained in one direction until midway through round seven, when Kuzmin raked a left hook across the midsection of Hunter. It was a singular moment, but enough to get Hunter to deliberately drop his right elbow as a reminder to protect the body.
Both boxers connected with left hooks upstairs in a fun exchange, before engaging in a game of cat and mouse for much of round eight. It ended with Kuzmin closing the gap and scoring a right hand and left hook near round’s end, though unable to jar Hunter despite the brief defensive lapse.
As the contest barreled into the championship rounds (the regional title at stake making it a 12-round fight), Hunter returned to form while Kuzmin was reduced to plodding forward. His highlight of the remainder of the night came late in round eleven, using every inch of his upper body to physically force Hunter to the canvas.
It all but summed up his performance, as he falls to 15-1 (11KOs) in suffering his first career defeat.
Scoring was a formality in the end, with Hunter the clear victor as he improves—in every sense of the word to 18-1 (12KOs). Still, he remains his own worst critic.
“I really wanted the stoppage,” admitted Hunter. “It’s back to the drawing board and figure out how to dissect these guys.”
It hasn’t at all dulled his aspirations of making his mark at heavyweight.
“I want to fight (Alexander) Povetkin,” Hunter insisted in hoping to line up his next fight. “I want to keep fighting these heavyweights and campaigning (at this weight).”
The bout served in supporting capacity to the interim lightweight title fight between unbeaten contenders Devin Haney (22-0, 14KOs) and Zaur Abdullaev (11-0, 7KOs).
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox